Racing prepares for electric and driverless cars

Future of motorsports will create excitement on different levels

Published: December 30, 2017, 12:30 PM
Updated: November 21, 2021, 3:04 PM

Jaguar Formula E racecar

With the push toward electrification and autonomous driving, and in particular the recent UK government announcement that all cars would be electric by 2040 and gasoline and diesel cars would be banned, many have wondered what would happen to motorsports. The answer, according to the Motorsport Industry Association (MIA), is that it will be more exciting.

“Ever since this announcement some question whether this will be the end of motorsport, but I simply don’t believe this will prove to be the case,” says MIA chief executive Chris Aylett. “The announcement didn’t clarify that petrol or diesel simply can’t be the ‘sole’ source of propulsion from 2040, so Hybrid vehicles, with internal combustion engines, will be fine.”

As with any racing evolution in the past, Aylett expects smaller, more efficient powertrains making more power for more aerodynamic, lighter vehicles.

“Over the next 20 years, we will see some fascinating developments in hybrid technology - an example being a turbocharged 3-cylinder engine - superbly efficient, enormously powerful and lightweight,” he explains. “Some powertrains will involve electric power, some hydrogen and some even new power sources - it will be a memorable period of disruption and innovation. We’ll see increasing performance from electric power units thanks to smaller, lighter batteries alongside increasing energy efficiency in the internal combustion engine.”

And as with other forms of racing, not everybody is going to be pleased with all racing series, but it is expected that the new generation of consumers will embrace the changes because of the relevance to their beliefs.

“These cutting-edge energy-efficient solutions will attract a new, young audience who will be entertained and excited by the transport of tomorrow,” says Aylett. “We’ll see new racing series emerging for this new audience to enjoy in a different way than today.”

“I’m confident we will be enjoying similar, and also different, forms of motorsport up to 2040 and far beyond, which is good news for the industry and fans too,” he concludes.

The other trend — autonomous driving — will also make inroads into racing, according to Motorsport Network, one of the world’s leading print and online motorsport publishers.

Just as Formula E created a racing stage for electric cars, Roborace will set the high-profile stage for driverless electric racing, complete with a sleek race car meant to instantly reflect that there is no driver on board.

Designed by Daniel Simon, the automotive futurist who designed the vehicles in Hollywood movies such as Tron: Legacy and Oblivion, the autonomous Robocar weighs in at just over a tonne and uses a 300kW motor at each wheel for torque vectoring purposes, allowing the car to attain speeds of about 320km/h.

The series is expecting 10 teams on the grid for each one-hour race on the same weekends as the Formula E series. Teams are supplied with the car and are allowed to develop their own computing algorithms and artificial intelligence technologies. The onboard Nvida Drive PX2 GPU is capable of 24 trillion operations per second.

“Roborace is the first and only competition series in the world for autonomous driver technologies and is therefore an important part of the motorsport world,” said Roborace CEO and past Formula E champion Lucas Di Grassi. “Autosport International gives us the opportunity to meet visitors and introduce them to the incredible possibilities of autonomous technology and the very real application it will have to their own road cars in the coming years.”

“We love racing in all its forms and Roborace is a great example of how to push the limits of this new autonomous technology and make it relevant to the track and to the road,” said Kate Woodley, director of the Autosport International Show, scheduled for London Jan 11-14. “Roborace’s 200-mph Robocar has turned heads from the second they launched the project and it will be very exciting for everyone visiting the show to see what is surely the pinnacle of AI driving capability.”